October 23, 2021

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Mysterious flashes of radio light come in two ‘flavors,’ new survey finds

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Every two minutes, a mysterious flash of radio light explodes somewhere in the sky and fades back into darkness within a matter of milliseconds. Astronomers first noticed the bursts in data archived from 2007 and have spent the decade or so since carefully stockpiling examples of the fast radio bursts, or FRBs, looking for patterns that might reveal their origins. Now, they have a whopping 500 new bursts to study. 

On June 9, an international research collaboration released the first FRB catalog from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) in British Columbia, more than tripling the number of known FRBs in a single day. The new dataset lends strong support to the notion that two distinct types of FRBs dot the radio sky, and it foreshadows a future where astronomers leverage FRBs to illuminate the most distant reaches of the universe. 



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